First Congregational Church of East Bloomfield
Rich in heritage, bonded in love, growing in Christ.
A brief history of the First Congregational Church of East Bloomfield, New York:
In 1796 the Rev. Zadock Hunn, a zealous man imbued with the missionary spirit journeyed from the New England States to the East Bloomfield area. He sowed the seeds for the establishment of the First Congregational Church of Bloomfield, making the East Bloomfield church, organized November 15, 1796, the oldest one west of Oneida. Keeping up his labors the good man then organized our sister churches in our adjoining townships of Bristol, Canandaigua and West Bloomfield.
Eight males and nine females are recorded as original members of the first meeting with the Rev. Mr. Hunn as moderator.
The First Building
Started in 1801, the first edifice was completed in 1808. This sturdy building stood just north of the present structure. Large and wide, it fronted to the south with the pulpit in the north end. Wide galleries were on three sides. This housing proved inadequate for the ever-increasing membership. An addition was considered but this idea was abandoned.
In 1836 the members raised the sum of $4,000 and this church was built. The exterior is in the Greek Revival Style of architecture and has not been radically changed over the years. "Gabriel" has been blowing his trumpet at the top of this present building even as he did since the days of the first frame building.
The interior of this church was colonial in design with "slips" as the pews were called, facing the east where the pulpit was located. The marks of these former slips may be seen in the wooden wainscoting along the sides of the sanctuary. The stalls were entered through little doors like those in the Canandaigua Congregational Church. There were two broad aisles; a wide gallery on three sides with the pulpit between the doors at the east end. In the basement were a large room for the use of the Sunday school and a smaller one for prayer and conference meetings.
It was dedicated September 28, 1837. The church society had purchased seven acres of land of Benjamin Keyes. Thereon was established the church edifice, the school and the burying ground north of the school. According to some records, Mr. Keyes gave the land for the "meetin' house green" to the church Society. Through the years the park was owned and maintained by the Congregationalists. Because of the ever-rising maintenance costs, it has been deeded to the Town. Since 1903 the plot has been know as Elton Park.
An interesting note from the book written by church members at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the church says, " It is worthy to notice that in the records of this society. at least until within quite recent years, the church edifice was invariable called "the Meeting House," and I must confess to a liking for that good old-fashioned name. It has an attractive sound, and I am inclined to think that many who would refuse to "attend church" might be induce to "go to meeting." --J. M. Norton Nov. 1896
Changes to the Building
Structural changes to the building have been numerous over the years. In 1851 the church edifice was considerably enlarged by the addition of 14 feet at the west end, the seats turned around and the pulpit changed to the west end.
In 1862 the lecture-room or Chapel (now known as Fellowship Hall) was framed on the southwest corner of the church property.
Extensive repairs and alterations were made in 1871. The side galleries were removed, and the windows changed to their present form. New slips were put in, with one center and two side aisles and a new desk platform built. In 1893 an alcove was built at the west end of the edifice to house the new organ.
About 1942 the basement of the church was transformed from what had become a dark storage room to an area for recreation.
In 1957 a new addition costing $16,000 was added, connecting the Church and Chapel. This gave room for office space, several new classrooms, and installation of modern lavatories.
In the summer of 2007 the congregation undertook the task of repairing the windows in Fellowship Hall. The refurbished windows have new curtains and Plexiglas on the outside to ward off the cold weather. The exterior of Fellowship Hall was sided. New exit lights, outside safety lights and ceiling fans were installed. Two ceiling fans were also installed in the sanctuary.
Congregationalists, who were the worshippers in the original meetin' house did so, as far as is known, without the benefit of an organ or similar musical instrument. With the aid of the pitch pipe or bass viol or flute, the vocalists rendered the hymns of that day. When this edifice was completed the first organ was purchased and placed in the gallery at the west end of this sanctuary. In 1851 the musical instrument was moved to the east end. A new pipe organ costing $1500 was purchased and placed in the gallery at the east end February 20, 1869. In 1893, when the alcove was built, the organ was moved there in the west end of the church, with room in front for the choir.
In the olden days, a boy (usually) pumped air for the organ by hand. Two boys were required when there was to be extra organ music, to keep the little indicator at the proper level. With the coming of electricity, a mechanical pump was installed. During the pastorate of the Rev. Theodore Horvath an electric organ was purchased. The old console was removed from in front of the golden pipes and the new one placed at right angles to the choir loft, at the north side of the church.
In 1968 a completely new pipe organ was installed at a cost of $14,000. This is the organ in use today.
In 1854 a clock for the steeple was secured. Openings to the east, west, north and south allow the residents to observe time from the four clock faces from these directions. Operating for many years, the mechanism of the timepiece became worn and the clock stopped. After a long lapse it was again restored to working order. Over the years many dedicated church members with the knowledge of clock repair were able to keep the clock running. It is unfortunate that today the clock is no longer running as we can find no parts for repair.
The church bell that calls the parishioners to worship today is one secured in 1893 by the church women at a cost of $150.00, in addition to the value of the old church bell. The first bell, weighing about 800 pounds was cast in East Bloomfield (Bloomfield) and placed in the belfry of the original church in 1823.
Until the advent of the telephone in town, about 1900, the ringing of the bell was used as a signal of fire or other disaster. Also, upon the death of an aged parishioner, the bell was tolled once for each year of the deceased’s life thus broadcasting the first news of the death.
What are probably the original windows in this building may be seen on the south side of the basement of the church. When the alterations to the meetinghouse were made in 1871, the windows were changed to their present form. Perhaps that is when the stained glass windows of yesteryear were installed. Shades of blues and purples of those windows gave a darkened light to the interior. Somewhat damaged over the years, these windows were replaced about 1914 by the ones that grace our church today. Plexiglas was added to our stained glass windows on the outside for preservation.